Aug 4, 2020 - Technology

America’s meme machine is fueling the populist movement globally

Data: GroupSense; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The QAnon conspiracy is picking up steam abroad, particularly in Europe, where populist movements are on the rise.

Why it matters: "The U.S. has started exporting these domestic-in-origin conspiracy movements to the outside world, "says Zarine Kharazian, Assistant Editor at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab.

  • "Instead of being the target for a lot of disinformation, the U.S. has become the exporter of a lot of it.”

Driving the news: The QAnon movement is gaining a foothold in countries like Italy, France, Germany and the U.K., according to a new report from NewsGuard, a company that fights misinformation.

  • The creation and sharing of QAnon-related material in Europe peaked in June during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, NewsGuard found.
  • "It’s like people took the QAnon theory from the U.S. and then modified it for the European context," says Kharazian.

Details: According the the NewsGuard report, many new QAnon websites, pages, groups, and accounts started to appear in European countries in late 2019 and early 2020, and quickly amassed large numbers of followers.

  • Older, more established pages and groups then started re-sharing QAnon information.
  • Some of these accounts are based in the U.S., suggesting they are being run by Americans hoping to export the QAnon ideology. 

Meanwhile: Tweets about QAnon are exploding worldwide, according to separate data from GroupSense, which tracked tweets that have used some of the top QAnon-affiliated hashtags.

  • Twitter's recent ban on thousands of QAnon accounts, and limits on over 150,000 others, does seem to have already made an impact on curbing the spread on Twitter.

What's next: Just like in the U.S., these fringe conspiracies have already begun to bubble up into the mainstream, per the report.

  • In the U.K., pop star Robbie Williams said he supported the Pizzagate theory.
  • In Italy, a member of Parliament posted a speech to her Facebook account promoting conspiracies previously popularized by pro-Qanon accounts.

The bottom line: QAnon's theories of a vast set of sinister forces arrayed against nationalist leaders are proving catching among the populist movement worldwide.

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